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How To Buy A House In Singapore: A Step-By-Step Guide (2022)

how to buy a house in singapore
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Buying a house is a milestone of adulthood for Singaporeans. It is a sign that you’re finally ready to be an adult and move out of your parents’ home. But how do you go about doing this?

Singapore ranks as the ninth costliest city in the world. Despite this, buying real estate is fairly easy. This is thanks to the government’s market regulation and financial grants. Foreigners can also purchase properties but there are regulations regarding foreign ownership that they should know about.

Here’s a step-by-step guide from setting your budget to signing the deal. Plus, the different types of properties you can buy in Singapore.

Step-By-Step Guide In Buying A House In Singapore

1. Set Your Budget

Real estate in Singapore is expensive. You need to be prepared to pay anything between S$500,000 to S$3 million for a unit in a condo. That said, you’ll probably need to apply for a mortgage to finance the deal.

For this reason, you need to get an estimate of the loan that HDB or the bank will grant you before you start searching. This amount will be based on your savings, current income, and age.

By getting an estimate, you’ll know which properties you can afford. You won’t be wasting your time looking into properties that are beyond your budget. Here are a few factors to consider when setting your budget:

  • Your income
  • Your age
  • Outstanding debt obligations or existing loans
  • Your available funds
  • Your home loan eligibility and loan tenure

2. Find A Real Estate Agent

When on the hunt for the perfect property, you may look through local real estate portals or through agencies. You can visit the Council for Estate Agents (CEA) website to find licensed real estate agents.

These reputable and experienced agents can make the processing easier. Here are a few reasons why you need one:

  • Knowledgeable about the market, procedures, and regulations regarding your transaction
  • Make transactions seamless and easy for you
  • Help negotiate the deal to ensure the highest possible benefit
  • Saves you time in searching for the right property

You can be assured that you’ll find a real estate agent that speaks English, Mandarin, and Cantonese fluently.

Real estate agents have 2% commissions. However, rates can stretch up to 4%. As a real estate buyer, you don’t pay anything. But when buying an HDB apartment, sellers usually pay 2% while buyers pay 1% commissions to real estate agents.

3. Consider Hiring A Lawyer (Optional)

Private flats and condo transactions are typically straightforward. So you don’t need the services of a separate lawyer.

However, you may need to hire a lawyer when buying landed property. There are stringent regulations involved, especially when it comes to foreign ownership. Here are a few more benefits to hiring a lawyer:

 They have in-depth knowledge about the government regulations

  • Help you communicate with the seller
  • Review the documents
  • Draft a contract

 How do you find a reputable and credible lawyer?

 Normally, a real estate agent can give a recommendation. Banks can also help you get in touch with one as well.

4. Getting An Approval in Principle (AIP)

If you’re taking out a home loan, you should get an Approval in Principle (AIP). This is a guarantee that the lender will lend you a certain amount when you need it. To get this, banks will need to check your credit history and finances. AIP is valid for 1-3 months.

With an AIP, you can confidently browse the catalog of HDB and private properties. Without an AIP, you might be rejected to get the sufficient funds needed from the bank later. This can create problems in the buying process.

5. Shop For Loan Options

Before you sign any type of contract, make sure to compare your options. You need to understand your mortgage options, as well as the terms and conditions associated with the loan.

Additionally, when choosing a home loan, one of the factors that will impact your choice is the type of property you’re buying. Take a look at the table below for the financing options in Singapore:

Property Type Home Loans in Singapore
HDB BTO (under construction) HDB loan / bank loan 
HDB flat (resale flat / completed BTO) HDB loan / bank loan 
Private property (under construction) Bank loan
Private property (built) Bank loan / bank loan 

You can contact different banks or you can use a loan comparison tool to find the best deals. Do this before paying a deposit or making any bookings. Additionally, if you are looking for a short term housing loan, you can consider applying for a bridge loan.

6. Pay Your Deposit / Option to Purchase (OP)

Once you find a property you want, you can pay the deposit amount or put an Option to Purchase (OP) on the property.

Typically, the Option Fee amounts to 1% of the property value but is negotiable between parties. The OP is used to “reserve” the property. This means other potential buyers can’t put offers on the property for the next 1-3 weeks.

7. Sign the Deal

Once you’ve put an OP, you can start preparing your complete offer.

The offer must be written and reviewed together with the real estate agent and the lawyer. This will ensure that everything is in order.

When the seller accepts your offer, your lawyer will help you with the process of transferring the title from the seller. Lastly, the lawyer will finalize the documents needed and register the property under your name.

Types Of Properties You Can Buy In Singapore

There are three property types in Singapore:

  • HDB Flats
  • Private Properties – private condominiums, apartments, landed properties
  • Executive Condominiums (ECs)

Your eligibility to buy any of the three property types will depend on a few things, including your age, citizenship, and whether you’re buying a flat with someone else.

As A Singapore Citizen / Permanent Resident

HDB Flat

About 80% of Singaporeans live in an HDB Flat. This is subsidized housing through the Housing & Development Board (HDB) and it is the most affordable option in the country. This type of real estate is known as public housing.

HDB flats are the preferred option for young people and for families with children. HDB flats are also available for foreigners that are permanent residents.

Eligibility Criteria

  • You must be at least 21 years old if you’re purchasing the HDB flat with your:
    • Spouts and/or children
    • Parents and siblings
    • Children under your legal custody (if you’re widowed or divorced)
  • At least 21 years old if you’re widowed or orphaned
  • At least 35 years old if you’re single or divorced with no kids

Note: A single (unmarried) person is restricted to a 2-room Flexi unit under the new Build To Order (BTO) scheme.

Private Properties

Private properties in Singapore are the luxurious versions of subsidized housing.

  • Private condominiums come with amenities and services such as a swimming pool, gym, security, etc.
  • Apartments have fewer amenities but are similar to private condominium properties
  • Landed property is typically a bungalow or house.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • To buy landed real estate, you need to be a permanent Singapore resident for at least 5 years 
  • You need to make “significant contributions”. This is based on your income assessable for tax in Singapore

Executive Condominiums (ECs)

An Executive Condominium is a public-private hybrid property. It also comes with a 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). This means you’ll need to live in the property for at least 5 years.

Eligibility Criteria:

For the first-time EC buyers, you’ll need to be a family nucleus with at least another Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident. If you purchase a new EC:

  • You must be at least 21 years old, if you are purchasing with your family members, are widowed or orphaned
  • At least 35 years old if you’re single (unmarried) or divorced with no kids
  • Your average gross monthly household income must not exceed S$16,000
  • You must not own or dispose of any private property within 30 months
  • You must not have bought directly from HDB Twice (include HDB resale flat with CPF Housing Grant)

If you purchase an EC from the open market (resale EC):

  • You must be at least 21 years old

You can take a look at this list for a more detailed eligibility criteria guide.

As A Foreigner

Executive Condominiums (ECs)

Foreigners are only allowed to purchase private property, such as private apartments and condominiums. They can only buy ECs that are at least 10 years old.

They will need government approval to purchase landed properties.

Read Guide For A Foreigner Buying Property in Singapore.

Cost of Properties

The cost of properties varies significantly. And factors, such as location, facilities, and surrounding amenities, can significantly affect prices. There will be neighborhoods or units with prices that are higher or lower than the standard.

That said, the average cost of a property currently on the market in Singapore is $2,080,533. An HDB flat, being the cheapest type of property available, costs an average of S$532,768. Take a look at the table below to know the average price per housing type.

Housing Type Average Price Median Price Average Price/Sq. Foot Average Size (sqft)
HDB Average S$532,768 S$495,000 S$507 1,067
Condo Cost Overall S$1,780,051 S$1,467,778 S$1,731 1,053
Landed S$5,063,507 S$3,850,000 S$1,462 4,244

Factors Affecting The Price of the Property

  • Location/District: Location is the biggest factor that affects the cost of properties. It’s a common trend for properties that are closer to the central business district, malls, or the center of a city to cost more.
  • New/Resale: New HDB flats or condos are generally cheaper than a resale HDB flat. This is because most developers offer early-bird discounts to entice buyers.
  • Type of Property: Based on the table above, HDB flats cost 70% less on average than condominium properties and 80% less than landed properties.
  • Proximity to Public Transport Hubs (MRT Stations and Bus Interchange): Neighborhoods or units near an MRT station may cost higher than those far from it.
  • Market History: Recent residential property transactions in the vicinity can also affect the cost of the property.
  • Neighborhood / Future Developments: Will there be a new commercial building within the area? These factors can also affect property costs.

How Much Housing Loan Can You Borrow?

Mortgage Loan Application

HDB Concessionary Loan

If you’re purchasing an HDB flat, you can apply for an HDB Concessionary Loan. This is basically the HDB housing loan. It is only available for the following:

  • BTO
  • Sale of Balance Flat
  • Re-offer of balance flat
  • Resale HDB flat purchase

HDB Concessionary Loan has a maximum Loan-To-Value (LTV) ratio of 90%. This means you can loan up to 90% of the property value or selling price and have to pay the 10% downpayment.

The downpayment can be financed with cash and/or your CPF savings. Aside from the downpayment of your residential property purchase, you can use your CPF savings for:

  • Stamp duties and legal fees
  • Home Protection Scheme premiums (for HDB flats only)
  • Housing loan
  • Cost of renovation
  • Your agent’s commission

Private Bank Loan

Another option to finance your private residential property purchase is to take a bank loan. For a bank loan, the loan-to-value limit is up to 75% for the first loan. This means the bank will finance 75% of the property value or selling price, whichever is lower.

Of the remaining 25%, 5% must be paid in cash. This means 20% must be paid using cash and/or your CPF savings.

Please refer to the image below to find out the amount of CPF savings you can use for different types of property:

Type of property and housing loan

Source: https://www.cpf.gov.sg/Assets/members/Documents/Financing_Your_Home_with_CPF.pdf

Conclusion

Key Takeaways

  • The average cost of a property currently on the market in Singapore is $2,080,533.
  • Properties in Singapore fall into one of these 3 types: HDB Flats, private properties, ECs.
  • Foreigners are only allowed to purchase private property and can only buy ECs that are at least 10 years old.
  • If you’re purchasing an HDB flat, you can apply for an HDB Concessionary Loan or take out a loan from banks.

While buying a house in Singapore is a huge commitment, it is also a worthy investment. That said, set out a plan as prescribed, get an estimate of the loan from HDB or the bank, and find the right house in Singapore.

If you need cash for a downpayment, you can seek the loan services of a licensed moneylender. Request up to three loan quotes from the top licensed moneylenders at Loan Advisor. Take your time in comparing your options to find the best deal.

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